Taliban fighters in the German police station

Taliban fighters in the German police station

© Keystone/dpa/Oliver Weiken

The marble plaque with the German inscription is still hanging on the guard in the tenth police district in Kabul, but the Afghan police officers have been gone since mid-August. “This police station was financed with public funds from the Federal Republic of Germany,” it says.

The guard was built and renovated with the help of the Bundeswehr. The Taliban, who moved into the building complex after they came to power, are now benefiting from this. Your fighters have taken on police duties, from here they drive patrols with captured flatbed trucks. During a visit to the station, it is hard to imagine that this troop would show its staying power in the war against the world power USA and its allies.

Standard outfit with automatic fire rifle

A handful of Islamists hold their positions at the barrier on the access road that leads to the police buildings. Almost all of them are young, and for some of them it is not enough to have a decent beard. A few have improvised uniforms, but the standard outfit is the Schalwar Kamis, which is widespread in South Asia: a wide top that goes down to the knees, underneath that are wide trousers in the same color. A scarf is usually tied around the neck, a brightly colored cap often sits on the head, and sandals or trainers without socks are emblazoned on many feet. In addition, you wear a vest with pockets for magazines – and of course a rapid-fire rifle.

From nurse to Taliban fighter

Most of the people here have Russian Kalashnikovs that have been fought in Afghanistan for decades. New to the arsenal are the captured American M-16 rifles, which Mohammad Abed is equipped with. The product from Russia is considered to be more reliable, but ultimately both weapons are good, says the 22-year-old. “Both kill the people who come to our country and do not accept Islam and us.” Abed comes from the central Afghan province of Wardak, he says he is actually a trained nurse. He joined the Taliban at the age of 16.

Photos and a shot

The two German reporters who are waiting at the barrier for access to the Taliban commander of the police district are met with deep distrust. The young fighters are particularly skeptical of the photographer who takes a few pictures – it often depends on the mood of the respective Taliban whether that is possible or not. The ice begins to melt when the first fighters want to see photos of themselves on the camera display. Abed speaks some English and tries to translate his fellow campaigners. The young Afghans want to know how old the visitors are, how often they pray and what people in Germany think of the Taliban.

The fighters want to take more and more photos, sometimes with the Germans, sometimes without them, sometimes with their own smartphone, sometimes with a professional camera. One of the Taliban fighters aims at the photographer with his M-16 rifle when he takes a picture of him, supposedly a joke. Some time later, another fighter fired a gun in front of the police building. “Don’t worry,” says one of the Islamists, saying it was a mistake.

Chaos at the barrier

After their victory in the 20-year war, the Taliban are now waiting for everyday troubles, at the barrier to the police station it starts with very mundane things. A chaotic crowd has gathered and wants to be admitted. “A lot of people don’t line up properly,” complains one of the Taliban security guards. “You should line up properly.” In a way, the amount at the barrier also represents one of the reasons why the West-backed government was so quickly overthrown by the Taliban.

Corruption and decline

For example, those waiting want to report thefts or disputes with debtors; many cases date back to before the Taliban came to power. The people here complain that they could hardly expect help from the police and judiciary of the old government without paying bribes – that is different now. The previous government was deeply corrupt, and it was not for nothing that Afghanistan was ranked 165th out of 179 on Transparency International’s corruption index. The Taliban can be made many well-founded reproaches for having carried out terrorist attacks and trampling on human rights. Corruption was never one of them – on the contrary.

Taliban at the salad buffet

The Islamists now want to set up a functioning state, with police and justice – and of course with a real government. Taliban spokesman Sabiullah Mujahid invites people to press conferences via WhatsApp group chat, at which foreigners are also allowed to ask questions. The Taliban check papers and trunk at checkpoints in the capital. The fact that they are also responsible for security at the Serena Hotel is not without bitter irony: in 2008 and 2014, their suicide squads attacked the country’s flagship hotel, killing numerous civilians there. Today Taliban fighters help themselves from the salad buffet there.

Memories of the reign of terror

At first sight, everyday life in Kabul continues under the new government. The streets are as full as ever, shops and restaurants are open, and residents of the capital are still stuck in traffic jams during rush hour. The memories of the Taliban’s reign of terror from 1996 to 2001, from which women in particular had to suffer, have not faded. There is widespread fear that the Islamists could repress women and minorities. The organization Human Rights Watch accused the Taliban in the western city of Herat on Thursday of “widespread and serious human rights violations against women and girls”.

Many Afghans only criticize the new rulers behind closed doors. Even the critics of the Taliban have little choice but to come to terms with the new conditions if they cannot move abroad. The Taliban never promised elections. You are likely to remain in power in Kabul for an indefinite period of time.


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